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Happy Feet: The Top Signs You Need Bunion Surgery

foot pain

Do you have bunions? If so, other people in your family probably have them too, as it’s common for parents to pass these to children.

Approximately 23 percent of people between ages 18 and 65 and 36 percent of people over the age of 65 have bunions.

Bunions, with the medical name being hallux valgus, are a physical deformity where the big toe, the hallux, moves, and points toward the second. The deformity results in a bump on the outer edge of your big toe.

While there are less invasive treatment options, many people opt for the bunion surgery to eliminate this problem. However, before learning more about surgical options, get to know a little more about bunions here.

Why do Bunions Form?

Bunions develop over time. They are caused by pressure on the big toe joint. This continual pressure changes your foot’s anatomy, causing you to shift your weight unevenly on your foot’s joints and tendons.

Women suffer from bunions more often than men, which has led to the widespread belief they are caused by tight-fitting shoes (high heels). However, shoes alone can’t be blamed for the formation of bunions. They can exacerbate a bunion that has started to form by keeping the big toe in an unnatural position.

Some other conditions that are thought to contribute to the development of bunions include:

  • Foot injuries
  • Neuromuscular disorders (i.e., Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, cerebral palsy, etc.)
  • Connective tissue disorders (i.e., Down syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Marfan syndrome, etc.)
  • Psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout
  • Loose tendons and joints, low arches, and flat feet

Understanding why bunions form is one of the best ways to prevent them.

Symptoms and Complications of Bunions

Several symptoms indicate the formation of a bunion. These include:

  • Calluses where toes rub together
  • A burning sensation
  • Numbness of the big toe
  • Inflamed skin on the outer edge of the big toe
  • Issues walking normally
  • Big toe joint pain

Bunions begin small. They continue to grow over time if they aren’t treated. As the bunion grows, it becomes more difficult to walk and more painful.

In severe cases, the big toe may start to extend below or over your second toe. This may put pressure on your second toe, pushing it out of alignment and against the third toe.

If bunions aren’t treated, it can cause several other issues, including:

  • Inflammation of the ball of the foot (metatarsalgia)
  • Hammertoe
  • Bursitis

If you have noticed the formation of a bunion, it’s best to talk to your doctor about the right treatment option.

Non-Surgical Bunion Treatments

Before restoring to bunion surgery, exhaust all other, non-surgical treatment options. Some of the most common treatments used include:

  • Cortisone injections
  • Ice packs
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Avoiding sports
  • Use of padded shoe inserts
  • Bunion pads, bunion splints, or toe spacers
  • Wide toed shoes

It’s important to understand none of these treatments can provide a permanent correction for your bunion issue. This is why many people opt for bunion surgery.

Bunion Surgery

There are over 150 surgical options for bunion treatment. The procedure used depends on the bunion’s severity, your activity level, general health, the condition of the connective tissue and bones, and your age.

Some other factors may impact the procedure used, too.

Mild Bunions

For a mild bunion, the surgeon may remove a larger part of the bone. During the procedure, they will also realign the ligaments, tendons, and muscles around the joint.

Moderate Bunions

For these, surgeons may cut the bone, shifting it to the proper position. If the bone is cut is dependent on the location and severity of the deformity. Also, the ligaments and tendons around the toe may need to be repositioned.

Severe Bunions

For severe bunions, surgery may require the removal of the enlarged part of the bone. It may also require your surgeon to cut and realign the bone while correcting the position of the ligaments and tendons.

Big Toe Joint or Arthritic Bunion

If your joint is unable to be repaired due to severe damage, which is often the case with arthritis, it may have to be fused. This procedure allows the bones to heal together, eliminating movement and pain. Sometimes, joint replacement implants are used for the reconstruction of the joint in the big toe.

When is Bunion Surgery Necessary?

If you experience foot pain when walking or while wearing comfortable flat shoes, you may need bunion surgery. It may also be required if you suffer chronic big toe swelling and inflammation that isn’t relieved with medicine or rest.

Some other reasons you may need surgery include a toe deformity, if the big toe has begun to drift toward the smaller toe, or if you cannot straighten or bend your big toe.

Risks Associated with Bunion Surgery

Just like with any surgical procedures, complications may occur. Some of the most common complications associated with bunion surgery include:

  • Infection
  • Delayed healing
  • Swelling
  • Numbness
  • Stiffness

Other complications include the recurrence of the bunion, continued pain, and nerve damage. The surgery could also cause an overcorrection of the issue. If this happens, the big toe extends away from your other toes.

Remember, there may be other risks associated with your specific medical condition. Make sure you ask your foot doctor about any potential risks involved with your surgery before the date of the procedure.

Tips to Prepare for Bunion Surgery

Your podiatrist at the podiatry center will go over the details of the procedure and allow you to ask questions. You will probably have to sign a consent form, which gives your permission for the procedure. Read all the information carefully and ask questions before signing.

Your doctor will take a complete medical history, and they may perform a physical exam to ensure you are in good health. Sometimes, blood tests or other diagnostic tests are necessary.

Let your doctor know if you are allergic or sensitive to any anesthetic agents, tape, latex, or medicines. It’s also necessary to let your healthcare provider know about any medicines or herbal supplements you are taking.

It may be necessary to fast for approximately eight hours before the procedure. Usually, this starts at midnight the day before the surgery. For the procedure, you are going to be given a sedative to help you relax, which means you need someone to drive you home when the procedure is complete.

What to Expect During Bunion Surgery?

Bunion surgery is typically done as an outpatient procedure; however, sometimes you may have to stay in the hospital. The procedures vary based on your conditions and the practices your healthcare providers use.

Usually, bunion surgery is done using ankle block anesthesia, where your foot is numbed, but you remain awake. Sometimes spinal or general anesthesia is used.

Generally, bunion surgery will follow this process:

  • Change into a gown
  • IV line started
  • Cleansing of the skin
  • Local anesthetic applied
  • Cutting, realignment, or removal of problem areas
  • Stitches and bandage

There may be additional steps, but this is dependent on your healthcare provider.

What to Expect After Bunion Surgery?

When the surgery is complete, you will go to the recovery room. The recovery process depends on the anesthesia you are given. During recovery, the sensation and circulation of your foot are going to be monitored.

After your breathing, pulse, and blood pressure are stable, and you are fully alert, you will be discharged to go home or taken to your hospital room.

After the procedure, your doctor will give you specific instructions to care for your foot a home. You may be given a surgical shoe or a cast to protect your foot.

Once you get home, you need to rest and keep your foot elevated using one or two pillows to help reduce swelling and pain. You may also have to apply ice and limit the amount of time you stand up and walk.

When to Call Your Podiatrist

If you experience any of the following call your podiatrist right away:

  • Swelling in the lower leg of the affected foot
  • Increased pain near the incision site
  • Draining, bleeding, swelling, or redness near the incision site
  • Fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher

Make sure to take note of these problems and call your doctor if needed.

Find the Right Doctor for Your Bunion Surgery

If you are suffering pain or other problems, it’s a good idea to discuss the problem with your doctor. If bunion surgery is needed, the information here will help you prepare.

If you are concerned about your bunion or the possibility of a bunion, contact our practice in Clifton, NJ or Wayne, NJ. We can help with any foot-related issue you may have.

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